I needed a place to stay in Eugene, so I contacted my friend Brett Gilchrist, who leads University Fellowship Church in Eugene (the folks who meet in the South Eugene High gym). He put me in touch with a guy named Mitch, who has a house in Creswell. It is one of the best introductions to a truly fine man I've had in my life.
Mitch spent 32 years in prison for armed robbery and a shootout with police. He grew up with an abusive environment, and he turned to people in his native Philadelphia to find mentors. Those mentors were criminals. He ended up in Nevada, got involved with robbing places in South Lake Tahoe, and ended up on the wrong side of bullets from police. He was convicted and started his incarceration. He tried for 25 years to be paroled. For 25 years, his requests were denied, so he stopped trying. There was something that had to change drastically for him to become a free man.
I don't get into faith in God matters on this blog, but I have to with this story. Mitch gave his life to Christ during his prison time, and he asked God to lead him whether it was in a lifetime sentence or a life outside the walls. Mitch made another request for a parole hearing, but he was one of thousands of prisoners asking for the same thing. Only one prisoner received an OK for his case to be heard. That was Mitch. He appeared before the governor, state court justices, and a battery of lawyers and those involved in the criminal justice system. One lawyer argued that Mitch had no business being out of prison, that his violent behavior before his incarceration and in his early prison years disqualified him from the chance to be a free man. The governor thought otherwise, and Mitch was released.
Think about that for a while. He had a 32-year history of having every decision made for him. He had become comfortable in the prison environment. All this new-fangled stuff about technology and such was baffling. He remembered when telephones were mounted on the wall, not carried in a pocket. How would he make a living? The recidivism rate is exceptionally high, and how would he beat the odds? He encountered people like Brett Gilchrist who have a heart for those in prison. Brett and others in the UFC community became Mitch's mentors. Above all, Mitch learned to let go of the old ways, take his hands off the steering wheel and let God lead him where he needs to be.
I spent a long time this morning talking to Mitch about his history, his changes and his hopes for the future. He talked about a possible GoFundMe effort to finance a ministry aimed at those just getting out of prison. He is a man with a good heart. Mitch is honest and articulate, and we have become friends. To put it in simple terms, he's one helluva good guy. He has a standing invitation to stay at our house if he ever travels to Colorado.
Isn't it funny how God uses us, and leads us along paths that we never would travel if we made all the decisions? Mitch learned that, and I'm in the process. Heck, every Christian is in process. We don't have all the answers, but we have the important ones.
So there's my story for Day Three of the publicity tour.
Life is good. Mitch is a friend, and I will pray for him every day in the hope God opens doors to his "fresh out of prison" ministry. He deserves that and much more. I want to see Mitch succeed in a noble cause. He's earned that right.